Previewed at WWDC, launching in the fall.
Patent: Wireless iPhone Charging Station?
The newest patent addresses the topic of allowing iPhone and similar devices (Tablet) to be charged in any orientation... landscape or portrait. Methods described include various physical connectors to handle both orientations.
A much more interesting method of transfering power is proposed in the patent application -- the use of "induction" for both data transfer and charging that would not require physical contact between the dock and the iPhone.
With regards to non-contact platforms, inductive coils can be placed in each device to transfer both power and data. The inductive coils are typically hidden from view behind the housings of each device and therefore they are more aesthetically pleasing than electrical contacts, which need to be exposed in order to operate effectively. Furthermore, inductively based systems are more robust than electrical contacts. For example, there are no contacts to wear out and/or oxidize.
In another implementation, power is transferred via an inductance-based system and data is transferred via a wireless system. The combination of inductance and wireless provides an efficient way to transfer both power and data while keeping both the docking station and portable electronic device fully enclosed.